John Linstrom: “What Was Precious”


I remember ladybugs and sow bugs precious
as father’s green coffee canteen, as mother’s

running shoes. I remember warty toads
and worms with skin like ours, rainy days

when they’d take to the walks, their bodies splayed
so earnest and unheeding over concrete

I could gather them by the tens, scolding them,
water running in my eyes and filling up their homes.

Summer nights were cicada whir, froggy peeps,
traffic and the smell of grass. Once, we’re told, night held

wolves, howls of shaggy ghosts, and pigeons,
orange breasts mottling a mile-long, feathered cloud.

I imagine the pigeons descend, tornadic, a roar
of grease-beaked benediction, apocalyptic vision

that I only once saw approximated by bats
funneling down the autumnal evening air

to christen, unwelcomed, mother’s white legs,
her skirt swung, our hands raised in joy.

John Linstrom is a PhD candidate in English and American Literature at New York University and holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University. His work has appeared in This Week in Poetry, Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland, and The Reed. In 2015, Counterpoint Press published his authoritative centennial edition of Liberty Hyde Bailey’s ecological manifesto, The Holy Earth, which features a new foreword by Wendell Berry.

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